Connecticut is Not Kidding Around With Its New DUI Penalties
DUI laws change almost every year. Last year Connecticut mandated the installation of ignition interlock devices (IID) for anyone who had his or her license suspended by DMV for a DUI. While that may be burdensome, it also allowed for IID's be installed 45 days into a suspension which effectively shortened the loss of driving privileges.
The most significant change to DUI law in 2016 occurred on the criminal side with Public Act 16-126, which took effect on Oct. 1, 2016. The law creates mandatory minimum sentencing of 30 days jail for a conviction of a DUI with underage (under 18) children in the vehicle. The maximum jail time is a year for a first-time and three years for a subsequent offense (felony). DUI's with kids in the car have often led to Risk of Injury (felony) charges in addition to the DUI and likely still will. Attorneys and judges are still trying to figure out the mechanics of the new law. For instance, does the State have any charging discretion as to the enhancement, the way it does with most other types of enhancements? Note that this is a strict mandatory minimum in which the court can't even go below the minimum for good cause as it can in certain gun and drug cases.
Although I support reducing drunk (and high) driving on our roads, I am wary of this law. If the diversionary program is not granted or not available, a defendant is looking at a conviction and certain jail. This law was likely intended to target parents who drive drunk with their kids, a truly dangerous thing. It however has the effect of separating the parent from those kids through a jail sentence. If we're truly thinking about the kids here, we--and courts--should be able to consider the effect on the family. Outpatient treatment, probation and a driving suspension may be the better option. With a mandatory sentencing scheme, that option can't even be considered.